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Ten years ago a gunman opened fire
in a parking lot, killing her parents.
No one ever found out why.
But a trip to Rome might reveal the deadly reasons.
Thirty-year-old Kelly Roberts receives a mysterious envelope after the death of her godfather, director of a news service dedicated to exposing media lies, summoning her to Rome for a promising legacy. After losing her job, Kelly, a single parent, fears for herself and her five-year-old son. She could sure use the money implied in her godfather’s letter, but she can’t afford to go to Rome, she can’t leave Matt, and she can’t take him with her. Even stranger, the note says to contact Daniel Weaver, a professor familiar with Rome.
To receive the legacy, Kelly must first locate her godfather’s hidden research on Mary Magdalene. Accompanied by thirty-five-year-old Daniel, Kelly embarks on the journey of a lifetime, finding clues in Rome basilicas, the Apostles’ Creed, and her godfather’s letters. But she is shadowed by another professor who preys on the young, both online and on campus. Desperate to find the manuscript that could expose him as an academic fraud, he is willing to do anything to keep that from happening…even murder.
Unlock the Magdalene mystery…and the power of historical truth.
The Real Mary Magdalene
Will the real Mary Magdalene please stand up! Much has been written on this saint, in the form of sensationalist fiction on the one hand, or dry academic essay on the other. If you long for a trustworthy antidote to both that is thoroughly enjoyable and well-written, this novel is for you.
Kelly Ann Roberts is a single mother, barely making ends meet and a bit reclusive after the hurt of being abandoned by her son’s father, later followed by the trauma of her parents’ never-resolved murder. With the death of Fr. Gilbert, the godfather she has half-blamed for the loss of her parents (the gunman who killed her parents had intended to kill him), she is drawn unwillingly to Rome and Provence, on a hunt for Fr. Gilbert’s secret research into the true facts of Mary Magdalene’s life. She is accompanied, at Fr. Gilbert’s direction, by Dr. Daniel Weaver, a professor of religious studies at UC Berkeley. But unknown to Kelly, and only suspected by Daniel, another Berkeley professor is determined to find the research documents first in order to suppress them; so determined, in fact, that he is willing to do anything to succeed, in order to preserve the prestige of his own flawed conclusions.
As Kelly and Daniel follow a series of enigmatic clues planted before his death by Fr. Gilbert, the Eternal City opens to them, one by one, an array of its great churches, each seemingly more gorgeous than the last, each with its own unique character. Over and above the cloak-and-dagger thrills of the plot, this book is an enticing survey of Roman churches, each shining like a jewel in the reader’s imagination. As Kelly visits them and meets the people Fr. Gilbert included in the treasure hunt he laid out for her, and as she hears from them the histories that make the churches come alive, she begins to recover her own mislaid faith.
Kelly’s deep questions rise along the way like bubbles needing the clear air of truth. Early on, she wonders that her parents’ deaths might have been due to a conflict about ideas – ideas of truth and the importance of truth. She asks how it could be that people would kill over such matters, and Daniel answers, “. . . in the end, ideas matter. They are vital. It is the intellectual that forms culture, for good or ill.” And later, “The crisis today is largely about current scholarship. A good deal of biblical history is fraudulent, written by ex-pastors and disgruntled priests wanting to get even with the Church, a Church that demanded their discipline and penance, something they did not want to give. These imposters desire to shape popular opinion and to profit from it. . . . . When their work was published, (Fr. Gilbert) tried to expose them. . . . . Many hated him and wished him dead.”
As the search continues, Kelly comes to understand more about the faith and its history, and more about herself, as well. In the end, “It came to her gradually that to know what was true and what was not, she would have to search for the lies in her own heart. Only in a place of humility with a heart washed clean, only there could God write the truth, only then could she discern what was real and unreal.” And as she grows, she gains in clarity also about her relationships, and her friendship with Daniel blossoms into a satisfying romance.
Indeed, this is a book satisfying on many levels: mystery, romance, Church history and theology, travelogue. It is recommended for anyone who loves the Church, or who may be unsure about the faith, and especially for those who have been confused by recent books and movies that purport to give a different and “more up-to-date” view. It is preeminently a book about truth, and the truth of the Christian faith – finding it in a world determined to discredit it, and coming to rest in it as the heart’s true home.
Susan Prudhomme, author, The Forest
The Magdalene Mystery
This is my third Sunderland novel, and, as good as the others were, it is by far the best. Ms. Sunderland skillfully crafts a tale that balances intrigue with history, while sprinkling in a touch of adult romance--by that I mean romance as it was intended for adults to pursue and for youth to witness as an example.
Her godfather, Father Gilbert, bequeaths Kelly Roberts a legacy richer in truth and spirit than in gold. She is to seek his magnum opus, a manuscript containing his painstaking research on the historically true Mary Magdalene, who has been reinvented time and time again by modern "scholarship," contorted beyond recognition for reasons both spiritual and humanistic. Kelly is to travel to Italy with an associate of Father Gilbert's, Professor Daniel Weaver, and together they piece together the mysterious trail of clues her godfather left using the Apostle's Creed as the cipher key. Thus, Ms. Sunderland takes us on a tour of the magnificent cathedrals, monuments, and grottos of Italy's and France's early Christendom, picking up piece by piece of her legacy along the way. Pursued by Dr. Lester Sansby, who desperately wants the manuscript for his own nefarious purposes, Kelly and Daniel must stay a step ahead to keep their prize from falling into the hands of its worst enemies.
The history-rich narrative is smoothed, even caressed, by Ms. Sunderland's exquisite prose. You'll learn a great deal, whether that's your intention or not, gripped by the tension and suspense surrounding the fate of Father Gilbert's manuscript and the gradual revelation of Kelly's parents' murder. (Oh, I didn't mention that, did I?)
The agenda is clear: the exoneration of Mary Magdalene's reputation from the hands of modern historical revisionists. But the agenda never overrides the storyline. Ms. Sunderland is subtle, objective, and honest in her treatment of the mysteries of history and of faith. The pendulum need not swing to an angle too acute to dispel belief for the message to come across effectively and with class. It takes an even mind and skillful pen to accomplish that. Ms. Sunderland displays both.
Flawless research, enviable prose, gentle heartfelt delivery. "The Magdalene Mystery" is a must-have for parish libraries and should be encouraged for both young adult and mature reading. Highly recommended
Bruce Judisch, author of Katia, For Maria (OakTara)
The Magdalene Mystery
“The Magdalene Mystery” by Christine Sunderland is about Kelly Roberts and her journey to find the truth -- the truth about her parent’s death -- but also to find the manuscripts of her Godfather who recently passed away. Father Keith Gilbert has sent Kelly letters over the years to keep in touch. Father Gilbert was recognized as a saint and spent his life exposing lies the media has spread and gained many that both loved and hated him along the way. Kelly gets one last letter from Father Gilbert and he insists that she head to Rome and find the truth. Since the letter is sent after his death, she is unsure of what she wants to do.
Being a single mother, she is responsible for her son Matt and getting the rent paid. This is her primary focus. The letter suggests that she contact Daniel Weaver, a professor and former student of Father Gilbert, to assist her with the next steps. Together they must solve the mystery surrounding Mary Magdalene so she will be able to claim her legacy, of which Kelly is unsure exactly what that includes. Kelly has to step out of her comfort zone and figure out if she is able to handle the task at hand.
I never really got into “The Da Vinci Code” type movies or books. I honestly didn’t even relate the “Mary Magdalene” name with the title of this book. If I had, I personally would have slipped over this book based on me not having much interest in Catholicism or historical fiction. I accepted this book for review because it was a mystery. Then come to find out that “The Magdalene Mystery” was full of the topics I typically avoid. To my pleasant surprise, I was not only immersed in the pages but I was consumed with the story.
From the first chapter I had already decided that it was going to be an excellent read. Christine Sunderland’s writing style is unique and precise. The history in this book is both fiction and non-fiction. Based on real churches, real historical findings and traditions, it was hard for me to tell the difference between what was real and what was the work of fiction. With that being said, I could tell the contents of this mystery were well researched. There are chapter notes in the back of the book that helped me to see what certain parts were taken from the real world. This was the educational part of the book that was so well written, I didn’t even have to think about whether I knew what was going on.
I learned with Kelly as she learned. As I turned the pages, I found insight into Catholicism and the stories that most of us know. Some believe these stories are real and some think they are just fairytales. I did not feel like the story was trying to “convert” me or anything of that nature. It was pure and I followed along easily.
The elements of this story really tell the reader all they need to know. As the focus is not to make you head to the church to confess but to take you on a journey of Kelly finding her way through her pain. It made me think of all the media hype around the movie “The Da Vinci Code” and how so many people were fuming about how anyone would say these things and attempt to change their faith. I always thought that was silly. Fiction should be fun and tantalizing and I found that in “The Magdalene Mystery” by Christine Sunderland.
Jennifer Hass for ReaderViews
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